Playoff hopes continue to slip as Argos fall to Valdosta State
By Jamie Calvert
The University of West Florida football team fought the good fight, but fell to Valdosta State 48-21 on Saturday. UWF falls to 6-4 after the loss, while Valdosta maintains an undefeated season.
Redshirt senior and fourth-string quarterback Nick Belz got the call Monday afternoon that he would be stepping up to take on Valdosta State.
The Argos played with new formations known as “Tribe” and “Crib”. Antoine Griffin stepped in as quarterback during the second quarter and made slight gains down the midfield, but was sacked almost immediately.
Chris Schwarz stepped in for the new “Crib” formation and immediately lost it, giving Valdosta State a huge gain in yards. After lofting it in to an open receiver waiting in the end zone, the Blazers closed the first quarter ahead by 14 points.
“I just went after it, “Schwarz said. “Tried to make the most of it. We have full faith in our coaches and what they do. We tried to give some different looks and make some things happen.
The second quarter looked promising, with a 24-yard pass from Nick Belz to Ishmel Morrow to secure a touchdown early.
Perhaps the most impressive play was a clutch interception from Marvin Conley after Alden McClellon flattened a Valdosta State receiver, shooting the ball straight up, opening Conley up for a 23-yard return.
“It was a pretty good hit,” Conley said. “I didn’t think the ball was going to pop high in the air like that, but I snatched it down and got some yardage out of it.”
A few plays later, Belz found Tate Lehtio six yards from the end zone, who ran it in for a touchdown and brought the score to 14-14. Valdosta State answered with a successful field goal attempt.
The third quarter took an interesting turn after Valdosta State muffed a punt, allowing linebacker Sam Adams to fall on it inside the five yard line.
“I saw the ball, and then one of my guys just wrapped him up,” Adams said. “I just dove and picked it up and fell right there.”
The third quarter overall showed a strong defense as they appeared to catch their second wind. However, the fourth felt like an uphill battle. Valdosta State cranked out 31 unanswered points in the second half.
“Our momentum had picked up,” Sam Adams said. “But we were shooting ourselves in the foot by getting penalties and just giving them yards down the field.”
“I feel like in the fourth quarter we weren’t tackling very well,” Conley said. “We got a few takeaways and then they got the ball back. We stopped them, forced a field goal. But then the penalties kinda killed us.”
The quarterback situation was less than ideal to begin with. Mike Beaudry has been out the entire season after suffering a foot injury during the first quarter of the season opener. Sam Vaughn didn’t dress out due to an elbow injury during the North Greenville game last week, giving Belz the opportunity to step in.
“I was obviously excited,” Belz said. “I’ve been here for three years and been working my tail off to get to this point, so I was just trying to go out and make the most of my opportunity tonight. Unfortunately, we fell short, but there’s always next week to bounce back and see what we can do.”
“I think Nick will be fine,” Shinnick said. “I think the beautiful thing about our team is that our guys believe and our guys know that we can get it done. We’re looking for ways to make it work.”
Belz commended his defense for their work in the second half but admits that he was pressing a bit too hard. He said the quarterback situation is tough, but he has great support.
“Our coaches do a great job of preparing us each week,” Belz said. “You’re always one play away from being in the game so you’re always trying to prepare where you’re gonna be at the start of the upcoming week. Obviously, it’s terrible to have four guys be hurt in our room, but it’s always next-man-up mentality.”
The Argos will hit the road Saturday to face West Alabama, who is also 4-3 in the Gulf South Conference. Although playoff dreams seem out of reach, the team stays hopeful.
“They brought us all here for a reason,” Belz said. “If they didn’t think we didn’t get it done then we wouldn’t be here.”